In the meantime, a contingent of about half a million Czech and Slovak soldiers, taken prisoner by the Russian army during World War I, began to rebel against the Bolsheviks, who were attempting to force them to serve in the Red Army. The soldiers seized a portion of the Trans-Siberian Railway and attempted to make their way across Siberia to Russia’s Pacific coast in order to escape Russia by boat. In the course of their rebellion, they temporarily joined with White forces in the central Volga region, presenting the fledgling Red Army with a major military challenge. In response to these growing threats, the Bolsheviks instituted military conscription in May 1918 in order to bolster their forces.

The Red Terror

At the end of the summer, on August 30, there was an assassination attempt on Lenin. He survived, but a brutal crackdown on all forms of opposition commenced shortly thereafter. The Bolsheviks called it the Red Terror, and it fully lived up to its name. This was the atmosphere under which the Russian Civil War began. It lasted well into 19201921, by which point the Bolsheviks had fully crushed the rebellion.

Assessing Bolshevik Russia

After the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks had very little planning in place, and their rule got off to a rough start when they came in behind the SRs in the elections of the Constituent Assembly. The working class was still a minority in Russia; the Bolsheviks would change that in time, but at the outset their rule could be maintained only by force.

The Bolsheviks faced major opposition from within Russia and for many different reasons. Among the most contentious issues was Russia’s costly exit from World War I. Though many had wanted out of the war, they did not approve of Lenin’s readiness to lose vast amounts of territory. In addition, the Bolsheviks’ sudden dismissal of the Constituent Assembly and their silencing of all other political voices was offensive to many as well. The result was the Russian civil war, which would be horrifically painful for the country and that, in the end, would cost even more lives than had World War I. The years following, with the violence of Joseph Stalin’s purges and forced collectivization of Russia’s lands, would not be much better.

Popular pages: The Russian Revolution (1917–1918)